Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency may "have lost enormous control over" some terror outfits that it backed "to gain leverage in Pakistan's efforts to wrest Kashmir away from India", the Washington Times said on Monday.
Although US drone attacks in the tribal belt in Pakistan's northwest have been increasingly successful, militants once supported by the Pakistani spy agency ISI are helping Al Qaeda recruit new operatives, the US daily said citing an unnamed US defence official.
Among the militant groups are Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Laskhar-e-Jhangvi and the Islamic Jihad Movement. Recent attacks on India, including an attack in Mumbai last year that killed more than 170 people, have also been blamed on these groups.
The ISI may "have lost enormous control over" these outfits, the Times said, citing the US official who asked not to be named because he was discussing intelligence matters.
The Times said while targeting leaders of Pakistan's own Taliban movement, the ISI is thought to retain links with the Afghan Taliban as a hedge against any US withdrawal from that country and the rise of Indian influence there. Pakistan also wants to counter a separatist movement in Balochistan.
There have been concerns that ISI still contains sympathizers with the Afghan Taliban, which the ISI helped create in the 1990s during an Afghan civil war, the US daily noted.
In a recent assessment of the Afghanistan war that was leaked to the press, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal noted reports that ties remain between the ISI and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan denies this.
"To a certain extent, they play both sides," Defence Secretary Robert Gates told CBS' "60 Minutes" in May, speaking of the Pakistani relationship with the Afghan militants.
A senior US counter-terrorism official also said the US takes "exception to the notion that information on the Quetta shura hasn't been shared with the government of Pakistan".
The official was reacting to allegations that despite growing success in targeting militants in Pakistan's northwest, the US is refusing to share intelligence with Pakistan about Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban leaders.
"On matters related to terrorism, there is regular information sharing with the Pakistanis at all levels of their government," the US official was quoted as saying.
Unnamed Pakistani officials cited by the Times acknowledged that shared US intelligence on Al Qaeda may have been leaked by what they term "rogue agents" in 2006 and 2007, when a target of a US drone attack escaped just before the planned strike.
"Still, it was only a hunch on the part of the US that the leak came from the ISI," the Pakistani defence official was quoted as saying. "Even if the leak came from the ISI, things have improved."